Contrary to common belief, chronic use of a computer keyboard is not the main cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). Keep reading to learn what puts you at risk of CTS, how it’s treated, and how you can prevent it.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
CTS is a condition of the hand and arm that causes numbness, weakness, tingling, and pain. It’s caused by a pinched nerve in your wrist, and if you spend a lot of time doing activities that involve repetitive finger or wrist movement or the use of vibrating equipment, you have an increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
You can reduce your risk, as well as any hand pain or weakness you may already have, by taking a few simple steps.
Many health conditions and diseases increase your risk of carpal tunnel symptoms. You may be more likely to develop CTS if you have one or more of the following risk factors:
Previous wrist fracture
Sex – CTS is more common in women
Chronic illness, such as diabetes or thyroid disorders
Inflammatory disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis
Fluid retention, such as during pregnancy and menopause
The following repetitive motions or activities have been associated with the development of CTS:
Continuous use of hands and fingers, including activities such as knitting or doing needlepoint with the wrist bent or flexed
Frequent bending or twisting of the wrist, such as using a screwdriver
Repeated squeezing or gripping with the hand, such as using a spray bottle
Moving fingers while the wrist is bent inward or flexed, such as playing musical instruments or typing
Use of vibrating tools such as sanders
Use of a cane, wheelchair or crutches, or doing certain sports (such as cycling) that require continuous forceful grasping with the wrist in an awkward position
Bending the wrist during sleep
People with CTS first notice symptoms such as:
Fingers “falling asleep” or becoming numb at night
Waking up with numbness and tingling in hands
Weakness and a tendency to drop objects
Burning pain associated with a feeling of numbness running up the center of the forearm, sometimes as far as the shoulder
More severe symptoms of CTS become noticeable during the day. When chronic irritation occurs, CTS can cause deterioration resulting in slowed transmittal of nerve impulses, causing a loss of feeling in the fingers and loss of muscle function at the base of the thumb. If the condition is not treated, it could result in a deterioration of muscle tissue.
To limit your risk of developing CTS, consider making the following changes:
Arrange your activity and work space using ergonomic guidelines, including the placement of your desk, computer monitor, paperwork, chair and associated tools, such as a computer keyboard and mouse. The same ideas can help you arrange your position for other daily activities.
Learn and practice proper body mechanics when using hands or wrists.
Evaluate your daily routine for activities that increase your risk of CTS.
Take frequent breaks from stressful activities to rest, stretch, change positions or alternate with another activity.
Manage chronic illnesses properly, through medication and other recommended therapies
Maintain a healthy weight
CTS symptoms can be improved using non-surgical means, if caught early enough. Non-surgical treatments include wrist splints, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen), and corticosteroids. If these are ineffective, surgery can help relieve the pressure on the median nerve and lessen or eliminate the CTS symptoms.